Thursday, December 19, 2013

Unexpected dangers in an early morning workout

We are lucky enough to have a well equipped exercise facility on the ground floor of our office building. My office is on the 3rd floor and we have free, secure access to this facility 24 hours. A shower room, naturally, is essential where there is an exercise room.

It may sound like I am complaining, and really I tremendously appreciate having these facilities, I just wish they were not so fraught with danger, the discomfort I can tolerate but the danger is intolerable.

recumbent bike and no ceiling fans
As I said, the exercise room is really well equipped, and fairly spacious. We have almost a full set of weight machines, there are just a few missing that would be nice to have. We have two Treadmills, a StairMaster, an Elliptic, two Stationary Bicycles, though both have their drawbacks. One is an recumbent bike and I am not sure if it is because my legs are so short, or because the bike is badly designed, for whatever reason in order to comfortably reach the pedals I find that my knees keep hitting the panel. The second bike is upright but the saddle is huge - almost like a tractor seat, and really uncomfortable and the front wheel (yes, it has a front wheel) appears to have an alter ego as a fan, so the faster you pedal the stronger the wind blowing into your face. I really hate wind in my face, in fact I don't like air movement coming at me from any direction. This brings me to another issue I have.

replacement fan
There used to be two ceiling fans, these gave just enough circulation to keep the room cool without causing an uncomfortable wind, and even on full speed, it was possible to keep out of the direct line of fire. I guess that was why they took them down - though I really suspect it was in order to save money. Does a big, almost industrial, floor fan use less electricity? I don't know, but I do know I can't workout if that fan is blowing - I am no lightweight but it almost blows me off the treadmill, plus it makes a noise like a small aircraft about to take off, making the TV about useless even at its highest volume.

All of the foregoing are just minor inconveniences, and worth suffering to save a gym membership, plus - the most value to me - it is open to me any time I care to be there. The dangers lurk in the shower room, and to a lesser extent, in the corridor outside the exercise room.

There are two showers, one is the requisite handicap friendly - that is it has an adjustable height shower head and bars all around to hang on to if you are capable of standing. While not a danger, definitely an unforgivable waste of water, it takes 5 minutes (yes, I timed it) for the water to heat up first thing in the morning. How much water goes down the drain in 5 minutes I wonder? Surely a tankless water heater would be cheaper on electricity and would definitely help save a commodity very scarce here in Central Texas?

Back to the shower, once you leave the shower, presumably at the very least a little wet, you have to navigate the tiled floor which takes on the behavior of polished ice once it is wet. At the best of times I am worried about crossing that floor barefoot, and when I started back working out after my foot surgery I was terrified.  I tried wearing flip flops but they were not much better when wet and how do you wash your feet? I now put the spare rubber mats across the floor and bring extra towels to walk on. I have nightmares about losing my footing and hitting the tiled floor hard at 4.30 a.m. in the morning. I am guessing I would probably have to lie there, wet and naked for the best part of 3 hours before anyone came close enough to hear me, assuming I was in any state to make a noise, and then they would need to have a security card programmed to open the ladies' shower room door.

There is a wooden bench along the wall opposite the two shower stalls, with hooks on the wall above and an electric socket behind the bench. Luckily it is well away from the running water because it has been in bits, falling off the wall for almost 5 years now, and I have seen people use it for hair dryers.

badly lit, undulating corridor
The final danger element, that I am aware of, is, as I mentioned, the corridor. Most people who use the exercise room also choose the stairs over the elevator, the corridor from the exercise room to the stairwell is long and not very well lit, therefore it is not possible to see the undulating nature of the surface as result of major work required to the foundation of the building about 5 years ago. Apparently when they were replacing the concrete floor they didn't have a spirit level, or even a piece of string. In fact, the floor looks undulating due to the bad lighting, but the shadows are deceiving and the dips and waves are not where you would expect.

Shortly after the work was completed, I was heading to the stairs after my workout when I stubbed my toe on one of the 'waves'. I suppose  tired muscles and heavy gym bag combined to ensure that I completely lost my balance and in attempting to avoid a fall, I twisted my knee badly. I was limping for weeks and my knee has never fully recovered from that injury, despite physical therapy.

I continue to use our wonderful benefit, but I also continue to be extremely careful in the shower room, and walking to the stairwell.